Institute calls for more stimulus for design and construction industries

The Australian Institute of Architects is calling the Federal government to implement stimulus measures to assist the design and construction industries in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an open letter to the prime minister, the Institute outlined initiatives that would help to keep the design and construction industries in action during these uncertain times, including keeping construction running where possible.

The letter’s authors the Institute’s national president Helen Lochhead and CEO Julia Cambage, commended the government’s existing stimulus program, which has so far aimed to support business and the vulnerable. However, they argue that the government should implement stimulus measures aimed at the development sector. “Given that this sector makes up 13 percent of the Australian GDP in normal times, we see the following as key actions for Australia to weather this storm.”

Lochhead and Cambage write that the government should bring forward infrastructure programs and projects, preference Australian businesses in procurement, and suspend design competitions, which would unnecessarily burden practices.

The full text below:

Dear Prime Minister
The Australian Institute of Architects (the Institute) commends you on the leadership your government is showing in support of businesses and importantly the most vulnerable members of the community whose jobs and livelihoods are under threat.
The Institute believes that stimulus measures that are aimed at the development sector, and all its components, from planning and design consulting services through to construction trades, supply chains and delivery, are needed more than ever. Given that this sector makes up 13% of the Australian GDP in normal times, we see the following as key actions for Australia to weather this storm:
  • keeping construction running
  • bringing forward infrastructure programs and projects
  • looking after Australian business and jobs in all government procurement processes
  • suspending design competitions
Keeping construction running
Maintaining the construction sector as an essential service is a key component to ongoing economic stimulus measures.
Keeping people in work and projects moving, as well as starting new projects, has never been more important. Local consulting services and trades, local materials and products are of high quality, available and in good supply.
Importantly, the construction sector has critical downstream economic benefits, driving demand for materials and equipment from local and national manufacturers, and for goods and services in supporting sectors. The continuation of this vital economic contribution will be a lifeline for many in the months ahead.
Bring forward infrastructure projects
Bringing forward spending on infrastructure will be one of the key factors in boosting an economic recovery. Areas of most need are rebuilding communities after the bushfires and affordable housing.
Areas that set us up for the future include transport, infrastructure, health, education and housing.
Australian jobs and materials
At times like these, it is incumbent on all levels of government to support Australians through procurement policies that favour Australian providers. While overseas companies can and do bring value, governments must consider how Australian companies should be engaged to develop and maintain capability within Australia. Strong weightings must be attached to selection criteria for local companies.
There is a groundswell of concern about the volume of work being directed to commercial international companies in Australian cities. This is a loss to Australia in terms of revenue, jobs and skills development. Using Australian companies and products has a significant multiplier effect that is not offered by other forms of economic stimulus.
We call upon State and Federal Governments to support Australia by preferencing local design professionals and building contractors for the next three to five years to enable the Australian design, building and construction sectors to outlive the looming recession and come back stronger.
Suspend design competitions
We would strongly recommend that the National Cabinet consider suspending any Government Design Competitions that unnecessarily burden competing firms and cease offering design competitions for all future works until we see signs of an economic recovery.

We would like to offer the Institute’s support in any way practicable. Please do not hesitate to make contact if you require further information.

Yours sincerely

Prof Helen Lochhead, LFRAIA, National President and Julia Cambage, Chief Executive Officer

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